The Supertones release a new album is a cause for celebration,
not only among long time fans in their hometown NYC, but also for
all fans of the world-wide Surf-Rock instrumental genre that the band
specializes in. With guitarist / composer Tim Sullivan at the
helm once again, the 2019 CD release of Unknown And Other Hits
From Outer Space features 15 newly recorded tracks of instrumental
gold. Recorded at Brooklyns famed Cowboy Technical Services
the album spotlights Tim Sullivan on lead guitars, Seth Lipscher
(rhythm guitars), Simon Chardiet (bass guitars) and Tommy
Mattioli (drums). With production chores by Simon and Tommy, the
album sounds excellent and features a number of musical surprises,
not the least being instrumental covers of two classics penned by
the late great rock legend David Bowie. A cover of Bowies Starman
classic from 1972, is given the Supertones treatment and its
a real highlight of Unknown And Other Hits From Outer Space.
Another outer space signature song by Bowie, in fact his first big
international hit, Space Oddity is also given the Supertones
touch and is another dazzling sounding highlight. Also here is a cover
of the title track from the 1965 movie For A Few Dollars More,
originally written by Ennio Morricone. A mix of several cover
tracks and a fresh batch of Supertones originals fills out the album
in style. Decked out in stunning day-glow cover art, Unknown And
Other Hits From Outer Space is a Supertones-style surf-rock instrumental
blast, start to finish. cdbaby.com
mwe3.com presents the 2019 interview with
Tim Sullivan of The Supertones
I remember you saying that The Sweet Ride from 2017 was going
to be the final Supertones album. Im glad it wasnt because
the new 2019 Supertones album Unknown And Other Hits From Outer
Space is one of best Supertones albums yet. When were the tracks
from the new album written and recorded and how did you decide on
the album title? Is there a concept to Unknown?
Tim Sullivan: I always wanted to play and record the song Unknown
which is a very obscure surf tune which nobody really had known any
thing about it, like who recorded it or the name of the song - hence
the name Unknown? that is on the 45.
In the last few years I have been doing a lot of solo gigs at the
Hayden Planetarium here in NYC for my friend Carter, who runs it and
designs all the software, and who is a big fan of the Supertones and
had been after me for a while now to come up and play while he does
these private shows, so I finally said yes. So, I had to figure out
what was I going to play for 3 hours solo in the dark while traveling
though the Universe.
So this was the main inspiration for the album, hence those Bowie
tunes and the title of the record and the inspiration for all the
new originals, that's all I needed to do another album. It like I
had to do it. It was a gift from the gods...
mwe3: Whats new in Chelsea these days? I remember you
said the hotel was reopening again. How has the building changed since
you moved in there way back when and is West 23rd street still rocking
Tim Sullivan: Well, theyre still working on the renovations
here at the Chelsea Hotel, they had a lot of delays etc
be finished by 2021 but most of artists and musicians are still here
and the Chelsea neighborhood is still and more so than ever rocking.
The streets are packed with young people
nothing like when I
moved up here from the Village back 1983. The place and street were
completely empty back then
now its full of people and
it seems like its where the action is!
The new Supertones album Unknown And Other Hits From Outer Space
features a kind of outer space theme to it. And plus theres
two great, sci-fi inspired covers penned by David Bowie, including
Supertones style instro versions of Space Oddity and a
cover of Starman, from Ziggy. I dont think there
was an instro cover yet of Starman and the Supertones
version is great. Do you have any favorite Bowie song writing period?
I like the band gives the track a kind of surf-calypso type sound!
Did you use any keyboards on that track to double the guitar line
and is it Tommys vibraphone playing?
Tim Sullivan: Im a huge fan of Bowie! I was one of the
first people to be into him, in 1972, when I bought the Ziggy Stardust
album back then nobody around Florida knew who he was or anything
about him. I loved every thing he did before Diamond Dogs,
that would be my favorite period. Everything he did was great, but
that stuff he did with Mick Ronson is some of the best rock &
roll of all time. Micks Guitar playing brings tears to my eyes
and on the Starman, Tommy plays vibes and Im doubling
the guitar line with a Fender Bass VI.
mwe3: What can you tell us about the title track Unknown?
Is it an original or a rare cover and does the concept of the Unknown
sort of underscore the sci-fi concept of the new album?
Recently, I was talking to Bob Dalley from The Surf Raiders and the
author of the book surfing guitars about the song, which his band
recorded back in 1979-80, about where it came from and who wrote it
he laughed and said 'nobody knows'! Its just one of those songs
that was lost and found then put out as a one off 45 with the title
unknown, with no copy right or song credit and it is really
what inspired me to come up with the premise and concept for this
album. You know, with the big question mark ? of what and who is out
there and the vastness of space: its all UNKNOWN!
mwe3: The back cover of Unknown And Other Hits From Outer
Space credits several members of the band, Simon and Tommy, who
are each given producer credits. What did Simon and Tommy bring to
the table as both co-producers? Who engineered, mixed and mastered
the Unknown CD and what was it like recording at Cowboy Technical
this time also working with Mario?
Tim Sullivan: Ive been very, very lucky to have both
Simon and Tommy work and play with me over the years. Most of these
songs were done in one take. We usually do two takes but the first
ones were the best and a lot of it had to do with these two, who work
really hard before and after we put the tracks down. Simon was behind
the board when we were mixing with Mario engineering every thing and
Tommy doing the music and instrumental arranging and production of
the over all sound of the record. These guys are total masters!
mwe3: In the album notes, you also credit Carter Emmart, director
of Astrovisualization at the Hayden Planetarium in the city. How did
that inspiration impact the Unknown And Other Hits From Outer Space
album sessions? How did you meet Carter?
Carter was my biggest inspiration on this project. Hes the head
guy there at the Hayden Planetarium and used to come to our shows.
He is a big fan, he had been reaching out to me for some time to come
up and play while he does his demos of all this new software, which
is now all in real time. Everything has been filmed out there in space
and its nothing like it use to be. With the lights and all its
now like a giant 3-D hologram. So one day he contacted me to come
up for a private showing of what he was working on, so my girl friend
and I went up there on a Sunday evening when the place was closed.
We had to go in the back door of the Museum of Natural History and
it was very much like that movie Night At The Museum.
All the lights were out and we had to walk though all that spooky
stuff in the dark, then up to and into the New Hayden Planetarium,
where he then turned on this giant machine. That is the new Hayden
Planetarium. It was amazing
something out of forbidden Planet.
He pulled out a blanket and we laid on the floor in the center, right
where the old light box use to be and for the next few hours he took
us on a journey into the inner most reaches of outer space, all through
the known Universe in full color and filmed in real time and all the
while he played my music in the background which fully blew my mind
and changed me forever. After that he said could I come up and play
live next time he does one of his demos, and I said hell yeah.
So far I think I done it about 6 times for his demos. So then I had
to come up with some new music to play that would work well with what
he was doing and then I thought I should put it on a new recording
with new material and a new record. That how this album came about
it was a very personal experience.
mwe3: Unknown And Other Hits From Outer Space is dedicated
to Rob Prosky, who is credited as being the 5th Supertone. What can
you tell us about Rob, what instrument did he play and when did he
leave and then pass on?
RIP my dear friend Rob Prosky. I met him while I was surfing out a
Gilgo beach in the early 1990s and as it turned out he lived
in the Chelsea area, 8th Ave and 30th. He and his NYC friends had
a car pool going, for when the surf got good out in Long Island, so
we would all meet up with our boards in the city and then drive out
to Longbeach, Gilgo, or Rockaway beach to Surf. This was all year
around! I had a car and so did he and a few others. We all surfed
a lot together and at that time, I was playing lots of gigs in the
city, and all my NYC Surfer friends would come to my gigs. Rob also
was a drummer and he always wanted to play drums with us so when he
moved to Rincon Puerto Rico in 1997, he would get us lots of gig down
there and he would play the drums. We must have played 50 gigs with
him over the years and he also would let us stay at his house down
there, so he was a very close friend indeed. But about a year ago
he started getting sick and it turned out to be Leukemia. He passed
away 6 month later. That was April 2019. A good guy we want to play
a memorial gig in his honor in Rincon PR some Time next year in 2020
mwe3: Unknown And Other Hits From Outer Space features
a Morricone cover of For A Few Dollars More. Why did you
bring that track to life as a Supertones version and was the film
and soundtrack an influence on your music too? Its been covered
before but the Supertones version is very cool and Tommys vibes
add an extra texture to the song.
Tim Sullivan: When I was in California a few years ago I heard
this surf band called The Black Ball Bandit who did a very cool medley
of Morricone tunes and I really thought how cool I should learn For
A Few Dollars More, which is my favorite spaghetti western so
I did I must say it was the most difficult piece of music that I have
ever learned. Lots of weird time changes but I loved the way it came
Antaris is a great track and its very unusual in
that its a slow-moving track with great dynamics. I read about
the star Antares, are they connected?
Tim Sullivan: Yes kind of, but the song was inspired by this
movie Captain Alatriste that takes place in 1630s about
the Spanish Tercio where, at the end of the movie, they fight to the
last man. I liked the name as well.
mwe3: How about Balazar? I read Balazar was a gnome
summoner? How does that track fit into the sci-fi concept of Unknown?
Its a very peaceful track. Kind of reminded me of the Shadows
song Blue Star because its so relaxing.
Tim Sullivan: Funny
this song came out of a dream I had
I was napping and woke up grabbed my guitar and played this song from
beginning to end - true story.
mwe3: Saturn Express is an interesting name for
a song. Its a pretty relaxing track. Does it conjure up the
thought of interplanetary travel? Theres a restaurant in India
called Saturn Express but you must have had something else in mind!
Tim Sullivan: Yes, its a kinda Booker T & the MGs
go space traveling but I do like the idea that its a restaurant
in India, thats perfect.
Was Torque Wrench inspired by the hot cars instro vibe
of the 1960s? Sounds very Ventures inspired right? The track brings
the album back down to earth a bit following the ethereal sound of
Tim Sullivan: Yes, its kind of a Mr. Moto
rip off. Very much a Surf Vibe, this was a song that Mike
Mandina and I wrote in the early 1990s where he played lead
on the original. Where as on this track I play the lead part so its
a little different than when we first recorded it back in 1992 and
a bit faster as well.
mwe3: Shanghai Surf sounds related to For
A Few Dollars More. Thats a Supertones original right?
It does have an Asian sort of sound! It's a kind of Chinese flavored
surf-rock track. Have you sent the track to any Chinese radio stations?
Also, do they have a surf-rock scene with bands in China or Taiwan,
Korea? What Asian country would you go to with the best surfing?
Tim Sullivan: This song was a tune I wrote back in 1992 and
was recorded but we never really worked it out as far as playing it
again. So I wanted to do a newer version of it and was a song that
my friend Carter likes and requested so we redid it a little faster.
Okay, yeah the Asians are huge fans of Surf Music and surfing the
Japanese are my favorite. They have made this kinda guitar rock their
own. I love how they have taken their traditional folk tunes and made
them into great guitar music. There are so many Ventures type bands
there that its hard to count them all. Im sure they would
love this song.
Speed Trap gets back to the hotrod instro sound. Was it
inspired by The Ventures 1960s sound?
Tim Sullivan: I like to use open strings as much as possible.
I was trained as a classical guitarist and using and playing in 1st
position you get the best guitar tone even though this tune is in
G and played in the # 3 position on G. I use a lot of open notes to
get that bouncy kinda punchy hot rod Ventures tone
one of my favorite songs on the record.
mwe3: Down The Rabbit Hole is an interesting name
for a track. How did that track come about? Its a Supertones
original correct but is the title taken from Alice In Wonderland?
Tim Sullivan: Yes, its one of mine, and yes and totally
an Alice In Wonderland, falling down the Rabbit kinda tune. Where
it will stop nobody knows, around and around it goes! Its another
favorite one of mine that came out of nowhere.
mwe3: Back Pedaling has a kind of 1960s Shadows
sound. It has a great stroll type sound. When was that track written?
The guitar sound with Seth Lipscher has a kind of call and response
sound to it.
Tim Sullivan: I wrote this at the last minute and it was a
complete composition that just needed that hook to bring it together
and yes, its a call and response and yes, Seth is in there.
mwe3: Dont Look Up is an cool name for a
track. Its another upbeat Ventures style track. Where did the
Sullivan: On that song I needed something that was kinda super
surfy, a Dick Dale kinda thing with a lot of Clang and Bang
in your face kinda sound. I think this worked for what I was looking
mwe3: Hijinx is a fun track too. Did you try to
come up with a fun title for a fun track?
Tim Sullivan: Yes, yes. Finding a cool name for a song is a
real work of art. Its everything when it comes to an instrumental
composition and it fits this tune to a T.
mwe3: Queso Grande has a kind of retro inspired
melody and with Tommys vibes again up front the track has a
kind of exotic feel. Were you going for a kind of Spanish flair in
the melody and arrangement? Also, surprise, there a bonus track tacked
on after Queso Grande. The CD art says 15 tracks there's
a bonus track not credited in the back panel called The Gorgon?
When does that track date from?
Tim Sullivan: Yes this was me trying to write a kind of Cuban-Irish
folk tune. Its in 3/4 and its been hard to pull off live.
Getting the grove is hard after play a lot of over the top surf stuff,
but it turned out rather nicely and its very popular with everyone
who hears it.
Yes there is one extra track on this record, which is The Gorgon.
Its the original rough mix of the song that was on our last
album. A rough and ready Byrds meets surf guitar tune. I just really
like playing it and prefer this rough version than the one we did
on last record. More in your face and with out the Rickenbacker 12
string, which was kinda weak
this one has more punch to it!
mwe3: With so many great Supertones albums recorded and released
over the past three decades, Im so glad to be able to do this
new interview with you Tim. Im looking forward to many more
guitar fans hearing and appreciating Unknown as we move through
the last teenage year of the century!
Tim Sullivan: Well thank you very much. I have always enjoyed
the interviews that youve done with me. You always do your homework
and it means a lot for us who play and love this kinda music. I hope
to do more records in the future as well as playing live here and
around NYC. Its been a fun ride, and I think this record is
my best work to date. It has something that people who are not familiar
with this style of music will enjoy. Thank you and much love to one
and all from Tim Sullivan & The Supertones 2019!